Now that we are in the middle of the summer, because of the drought and water restrictions imposed by the water departments other garden issues are starting to appear.
Our post last month talked about damage to our sprinkler heads and drip lines made by small outdoor animals (critters, rodents, etc.) looking for water. Although obviously problematic, that damage is easy to identify with regular maintenance and by checking the sprinklers zones, turning them on one by one.
Problems have now gone below ground.
Every summer there is of course gopher, mole and vole activity, but this year the activity is certainly on the rise, and the damage these animals cause is much more than just a nuisance. With the lack of water in open areas and most of our gardens irrigated, the gopher, mole and vole populations seem to be at an all-time high. Not only do these animals continue to dig up our lawn areas, they are also doing damage to the root systems of plants in various ways. Gophers actually cause damage by chewing the roots while moles create havoc in a different way. Moles look for grubs by digging around plants and in doing so, actually expose the roots to the air which causes plants to dry up very quickly. The result in this increased activity by gophers, moles and voles is that we have begun to see plant damage on species that seemed to have gone unscathed in the past. This is particularly unfortunate with the loss of mature shrubs and plants that have taken years to get to their desired fullness and height.
One solution to prevent damage is to re-plant using gopher wire cages in order to help keep the new plantings from being invaded by these animals. When planting or replanting larger shrubs and trees, there can be both positive and negative aspects of using wire gopher cages: one positive is that the cages help prevent gophers and moles from getting close to the main roots; on the negative side however, using cages around plantings forces roots to grow through the wire mesh, and can restrict their hearty growth.
Our goal is to help our readers and gardeners with advice and solutions as we navigate the continued summer difficulties in keeping our Bay Area gardens beautiful.